Galápagos Islands (Ecuador) (N 1bis)
Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 1978
Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger
Previous Committee Decisions see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1/documents/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 567,850
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Total amount provided to the property: USD3.5 million for the capitalization of an introduced species Trust Fund, management of introduced species, tourism management studies and other technical support
Previous monitoring missions
June 1996: Joint UNESCO/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission (including World Heritage Committee Chairperson); February 2003: UNESCO mission; June 2003: UNESCO mission; April 2005: UNESCO informal visit; February-March 2006: Joint UNESCO/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission; April 2007: Joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission (including World Heritage Committee Chairperson); April 2009: UNESCO informal visit; April-May 2010: Joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission; August 2017: IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
- Fishing/collecting aquatic resources
- Legal framework (inadequate implementation of the Special Law on Galápagos)
- Identity, social cohesion, changes in local population and community (high immigration rate)
- Illegal activities
- Impacts of tourism / visitor / recreation
- Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing / collection of aquatic resources
- Invasive Alien Species / biosecurity (inadequate and ineffective quarantine measures)
- Major visitor accommodation and associated infrastructure
Illustrative material see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2018
From 21 to 25 August 2017, an IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission visited the property and on 1 December 2017, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property. Both reports are available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1/documents/. The State Party provides the following information:
- Different regulations and proposed instruments were developed in the framework of the Special Law for the Special Regime of the Galápagos Province (LOREG 2015), which includes a chapter introducing more severe sanctions, for environmental, biosecurity and other infractions;
- Solid waste management has improved through strengthening infrastructure for recycling, composting and a landfill for non-recyclable waste. The wastewater management systems are currently in different stages of implementation within the islands;
- A new zoning system was introduced and approved by ministerial agreement in mid-2016 and its implementation began in 2017. It integrates the terrestrial and marine protected areas under the same use categories. The four zones defined were the transition, conservation, sustainable use and intangible zones, and 25 types of uses were identified, with permitted activities and requirements. Almost 34% of the property falls under zones where extractive activities are prohibited. In parallel, the Marine Sanctuary of Darwin and Wolf was established in the northern islands as an additional conservation zone;
- A vessel monitoring surveillance system is in place in the Galápagos Marine Reserve. Despite significant efforts, illegal fishing activities inside the property remain a problem and international illegal industrial fishing in the region remains of high concern, as shown by the capture of a Chinese vessel in August 2017 carrying over 600 tonnes of catch, of which most were shark species listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The State Party notes that illegal fishing is impacting the entire region which requires regional coordinated action;
- The Galápagos Tourism Accommodation Regulations define the types of accommodation and their minimum environmental compliance requirements. A tourism infrastructure census was undertaken in 2015 and 2016 and all previously unregulated accommodations were brought into compliance with the new norms. In the process, an excess in tourism accommodation supply was noted. As of September 2017, visitor growth had increased by 4.25% compared with 2016. In 2016 and 2017, measures taken to ensure that tourism remains sustainable included maintaining the number of flights to the limit established in 2012 and a moratorium on development of new tourism projects. The State Party expresses its commitment to promote a zero growth tourism model;
- In terms of biosecurity, the cargo facility in Guayaquil has not yet been constructed. However, the number of staff of the Galápagos Biosecurity Agency (AGB) has increased, and in 2016 100% of commercial and private flights and different types of vessels were inspected. There was new equipment introduced, and the construction of a new specialized laboratory is planned.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN
The significant ongoing efforts by the State Party to address the longstanding issues, as well as further consolidate governance and institutional arrangements related to the management of the property, should be commended.
The 2017 mission confirmed the overall significant progress in addressing the many threats facing the property. However, it noted that some of the Committee’s requests of 2010 when the property was removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger remain unresolved. It is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to address all pending issues, particularly those related to tourism management and biosecurity, as discussed in more detail below, and to fully implement the 2017 mission recommendations, including those related to new emerging issues, such as illegal fishing.
The infrastructure improvement of solid waste and wastewater management are welcomed. However, these efforts should ensure that all islands have appropriate waste management systems in place. The installation of wastewater treatment plants in larger tourism accommodation facilities should be encouraged. Despite the State Party’s efforts to reduce plastic waste, plastic carried to shore by oceanic currents remains a problem.
The establishment of the new zoning system and the new Marine Sanctuary of Darwin and Wolf within the property is welcomed, and it is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to provide adequate resources to enable the enforcement of the restrictions that apply to these areas and ensure the preservation of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV).
It is noted with concern that illegal fishing by foreign vessels inside and outside the property continues to represent a serious threat to the property’s OUV and requires immediate attention. It is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to continue its efforts to address illegal fishing, including by strengthening cooperation with the States Parties of Colombia, Costa Rica and Panama through different international mechanisms, such as the Eastern Tropical Pacific Corridor cooperation and concentrating efforts around the four natural marine World Heritage properties located in this region. It is further recommended that the Committee request the State Party to continue collaborating with other States Parties whose fishing vessels are found to operate illegally within the property or illegally target migratory species that are part of the property’s OUV.
It is recommended that the Committee note with satisfaction the different improvements in the biosecurity controls and the approved location for the Guayaquil port. Nevertheless, the 2017 mission reports that the port’s construction has not yet started due to a lack of funding and that there is no substantial progress in the implementation of the project for the Baltra port. Therefore, it is necessary to reiterate the establishment of both ports as key measures for biosecurity control, as has been requested in past Decisions.
The various measures to restrain uncontrolled tourism growth in the property are noted, however, the current increase of visitors and its impacts on the fragile ecosystems are factors that require further attention. The State Party has noted a commitment to promote a zero growth tourism model, which should be further developed and adopted as a priority. It is suggested that this model be integrated into the updated Management Plan currently under revision and that its measures should be sustained in the long term as permanent regulations, including maintaining the limits on the number of flights and the moratorium on the development of new tourism projects.
Decision Adopted: 42 COM 7B.85
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/18/42.COM/7B,
- Recalling Decision 40 COM 7B.74, adopted at its 40th session (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016),
- Commends the State Party for progress achieved with the further consolidation of governance and institutional arrangements related to the management of the property and with addressing the longstanding issues facing the property;
- Notes with concern that, despite this progress, some of the requests made during its 34th session in 2010 when the property was removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger remain unresolved, and urges the State Party to implement all pending requests, particularly those related to tourism management and biosecurity, and requests the State Party to fully implement the recommendations made by the 2017 IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission;
- Takes note of the various measures implemented by the State Party to discourage rapid and uncontrolled tourism growth in the property, and its commitment to a zero growth tourism model, and reiterates its requests to the State Party to develop and implement a clear tourism strategy that ensures that suitable measures are sustained in the long term as permanent regulations, including maintaining the moratorium on construction of new tourism projects and the limits on the number of flights;
- Welcomes the establishment of a new zoning system within the property, including a new marine sanctuary and designation of other marine no-take zones, and also requests the State Party to provide adequate resources to enable the enforcement of the restrictions that apply to these areas and ensure the preservation of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV);
- Also notes with concern that illegal fishing by foreign vessels in and outside the property continues to represent a threat to its OUV and further requests the State Party to continue its efforts to address this threat, including by:
- Building on existing collaboration between the States Parties of Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Panama to address international illegal fishing within the framework of the Eastern Tropical Pacific Corridor cooperation and other appropriate regional mechanisms, concentrating around the four natural marine World Heritage properties located in this region,
- Strengthening collaboration with other States Parties whose fishing vessels are found to be operating illegally within the property, or are illegally targeting migratory species that are part of the property’s OUV;
- Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2019, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 44th session in 2020.